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Macedonia finance director says layoffs could be needed for roads if tax increase fails again

by Briana Barker | Reporter Published: September 21, 2016 12:00 AM
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Macedonia -- During a town hall style meeting Sept. 15, officials said the city may have to lay off workers if it needs money to fix roads.

The meeting was held to help residents understand a proposed 0.25 percent income tax increase on the Nov. 8 ballot and to allow a forum for residents to ask questions. Council President Nick Molnar said there was misinformation out during the Aug. 2 election -- where voters rejected a 0.5 percent income tax increase.

The city is asking voters on Nov. 8 to approve Issue 18, a 0.25 percent income tax increase to pay for roads and stormwater improvements. The levy is expected to bring approximately $1.5 million each year to the city for 10 years, beginning in January 2017. Voters are also being asked to approve Issue 19, which would renew a 0.25 percent income tax for recreation.

About a dozen people attended the town hall meeting. One resident said he had been opposed to the tax increase but said was trying to keep an open mind. The meeting followed a streets and highways committee meeting during which Engineer Joe Gigliotti proposed the city appropriate $1 million annually to focus on road repair, and implement a preventative maintenance program at cost of roughly $425,000 annually. (See related story below).

Finance Director Rhonda Hall said during the town hall meeting that without extra revenue, the city would have to lay off as many as 14 full-time employees to free up $1 million annually.

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"Now we can obviously make a combination of some departments but it would hurt," Hall said during the committee meeting. "This year we had some replaces from 2010 layoffs, and we were just kind of starting to rebound."

Councilor Kevin Bilkie discussed the possiblity of layoffs and noted the city added some staff in 2016.

"By eliminating any safety forces positions we would compromise our safety, if we eliminate any service guys we are not going to get any of the projects we get done currently," Bilkie said. "That said, we do try to analyze every dollar we spend and we just come up short to do any roads this year."

He told the News Leader that he had not realized that layoffs could be necessary to come up with more money.

Hall said money from Issue 18 can only be used for roads and stormwater management.

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"This money will go into a specific fund for a specific purpose," she said. "It would not go into the general fund for the city's discretion to be used wherever."

According to Hall, 80 percent of the city's tax revenue would come from workers in the city and only 20 percent from residents. She said there are 8,181 residents who file tax returns. She said 1,290 of those won't be affected by the increase.

"That means they work already in a 2.25 percent community or higher," Hall said.

Hall said Cleveland suburb communities that are already at a higher income tax rate include Warrensville Heights at 2.6 percent, North Randall at 2.75 percent, Euclid at 2.85 percent and Parma Heights at 3 percent.

Councilor Sylvia Hanneken, who opposed the 0.50 percent increase voters rejected Aug. 2, said she agrees roads need to be a priority but still disagrees with the proposed tax increase.

Hanneken also agreed with Gigliotti's recommendation for establishing a preventative maintenance program for roads but said the city could do so by taking the 0.25 percent of tax money that is proposed to be used for parks and recreation and re-establish that money for roads and stormwater.

"We have not made the roads a priority in this year's budget," Hanneken said. "The Mayor and Council majority chose to spend $1.5 million more this year than in 2014 and 2015 on city of Macedonia operations rather than appropriating funds for road repairs and maintenance."

She said during the past four years the city funded an average of $1.1 million on road repairs while still adding staff after the recession years of 2009-11.

"We did that without a dedicated roads/stormwater levy and we can continue to do that if we properly appropriate funds on roads rather than redecorating and dugouts," she added, referring to renovations that were undertaken this year at city hall and Longwood Park.

Briana Barker: 330-541-9432


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